5 big takeaways from Cardinals' rout of Packers

Posted at 5:26 PM, Dec 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-27 21:45:46-05

Statement made.

Missing both of their starting safeties, the Arizona Cardinals put on a defensive clinic at University of Phoenix Stadium, scoring 21 points off turnovers en route to a 38-8 victory over the visiting Green Bay Packers.

With the victory, the Cardinals (13-2) secured a first-round playoff bye. They can clinch the NFC's top overall seed with a home win over the Seahawks and a Panthers home loss to the Buccaneers next weekend.

Here are five big takeaways from the Cards' thumping of the cheeseheads.

1. Defense dominates without the Badger.  

The Cardinals will be without arguably their most dominant defensive player for the rest of the season, as safety Tyrann Mathieu suffered a torn ACL in last weekend's win over the Eagles. To make matters worse, the Cards were also without their other starting safety, Rashad Johnson. 

No problem for the Cards, who responded to the challenge by compiling nine sacks and forcing four turnovers, including this scoop and score by defensive end Cory Redding. 

The Cards will certainly miss Mathieu's energy and ability the rest of the way -- but on Sunday, his defensive teammates took care of business and let fans know they're still an elite unit even without the Honey Badger.

2. David Johnson continues to roll.

Cardinals rookie running back sensation David Johnson continues to make defenses look silly. After his three-TD performance in last weekend's win at the Eagles, the third-round pick piled up 127 total yards on just 12 touches, even without playing in the fourth quarter.

3. Carson Palmer: Same old, same old.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer began his birthday by paying off a lost bet. The rest of his day was much better. The 2015 MVP candidate completed 18 of 27 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns.

His only mistake: an interception off an intended screen pass late in the second quarter. No worries, as Cards cornerback Justin Bethel got the ball back by picking off an Aaron Rodgers pass three plays later, leading to Palmer's second TD pass of the game.

4. Congrats, Fitz.

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has made it clear that he doesn't care about the individual awards; all he wants is a Super Bowl ring. Well, the Cards may very well be on their way to achieving that goal, but in the meantime, the future Hall of Famer continues to rack up the accolades

On Sunday, Fitz hauled in his 100th reception of the season. What does that mean?

Oh, and Fitzgerald hauled in his eighth TD catch of the season on Sunday -- his fifth score in four career games vs. Green Bay.

5. Stay classy, Clay Matthews.

Green Bay Packers defensive end and six-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews displayed a complete lack of class by pulling his hand away from Palmer after a second-quarter hit. Even more surprising: The NFL was apparently proud of the gesture and decided to retweet it.

The birthday boy, however, got the last laugh, throwing a touchdown pass to John Brown on the very next play.

Scoreboard, Mr. Matthews.